Deborah Seelinger – School Board Candidate for Seat 3
1. Please describe your vision for an ideal program for gifted students in K-12. Consider the varying levels of giftedness and the needs of each level.
We must meet the needs of all our students. This can sometimes be difficult as we talk about our gifted students because the levels of giftedness can vary so widely between them. In addition, there is some isolation in our schools, which makes it more difficult to group them with their academic peers.
I hope the district continues to work toward offering a sustainable Highly Gifted elementary program. We need to identify the barriers and work towards overcoming them.
The elementary pull out program has limited impact on our young learners and I believe some of the piloting of the push-in model has shown some success. If so, it needs to be expanded district wide.
I think at the high school level, we continue to struggle to meet the needs of our highly gifted, especially those who attended Friedell’s HG program. The honors and AP options could be expanded to include more classes and be more consistent in how they are implemented.
2. Given ongoing budget constraints, how would you prioritize gifted education among other district expenses? Do you have ideas for obtaining additional funding or for cost-efficient methods of providing gifted services to our students?
We must protect the Gifted and Talented levy and further help advocate for additional funds in Rochester, proportional to our higher than average gifted population. The Highly Gifted middle school program has the ability to bring more students from home school settings, private schools and those from surrounding areas into our district, and that increases funding. In addition, AP and Honors courses may do the same at the high school level. But increasing enrollment puts money into the general fund, not the specific gifted and talented department. I believe the district department needs to look for grant opportunities and other best practices to serve our students that would provide budget efficiencies.
Dan O'Neil – School Board Candidate for Seat 7
1. Describe your vision for the ideal program for gifted students in K-12. Consider the varying levels of giftedness and the needs of each level.
From my perspective, Rochester Public Schools must provide every student with the opportunity to reach their maximum potential in college and life. In community that has among the highest level of education per capita in the nation, Rochester is to have many families with superior intellect and academic talent. We must make every effort to identify, inspire and instruct students who have exceptional talent to ensure that they are challenged. I believe that the identification process starts in preschool programs. I am pleased that we now have policies in place to actively evaluate and offer opportunities for advancement as early as age four. Further, we must actively evaluate students who excel early in reading and math in the primary grades to gain mastery and remain excited and challenged. As students approach middle school and high school, we must find ways to inspire them to advance academically while remaining connected socially to peers. We can further inspire our students by ensuring that we recognize and celebrate scholastic achievement like many schools promote athletic prowess. Finally, I believe that Rochester should partner with parents and businesses to establish national leadership in curriculum development and in contests and organizations that involve math, science, engineering and other academic skills. In summary, our gifted programs must start early, inspire involvement, and immerse individual learners to be the best that they can be.
2. Given ongoing budget constraints, how would you prioritize gifted education among the other district expenses? Do you have ides for obtaining additional funding or for cost efficient methods of providing gifted services to our students?
When we invest in programs that challenge our gifted learners, I believe that Rochester can be a lighthouse of outstanding performance. We can do more to promote Rochester as a haven for high achievement. Being recognized as a district that does promote high academic standards will lead to increased enrollment, and based on state funding formulae, the entire district will benefit. However, it is likely that the funding increases would not be adequate to make and keep our programs competitive on a world-class scale. I’m optimistic that the sales tax renewal will add to our offerings by providing funding for science and technology. In my work at Mayo Clinic, we have enabled medical consultations at a distance, and I believe that we can do the same in education. One possibility would be to leverage distance learning and asynchronous participation (e.g. Kahn Academy-style videos) that can be used across the district with little or no travel cost. Further, we have much to gain from sharing and partnering our gifted education offerings with districts in the area. Since his arrival in Rochester, Mike Munoz has been a leader in creating collaborations that should be nurtured to create opportunities to share tools and to lower costs to challenge our brightest students. Finally, I believe that there are groups in the community that are willing to support in programs that provide a margin of excellence for our students and it is the job of district leadership to make connections and promote investments in increasing gifted offerings in technology and health care.